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Is near field communication the future of data storage?

Is near field communication the future of data storage?

Near field communication (NFC) has become one of the mainstream payment solutions for today’s consumer. NFC technology is fast becoming the standard in tablets and smartphones. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet and a host of others are becoming popular with online and offline retailers. However, it is surrounded by questions about how it works and whether it is secure or not.

Replacing the wallet with your phone

NFC is a technology that allows consumers to pay for their goods using their mobile phone or tablet. It also facilitates the sharing of data with other NFC-enabled devices, which means friends can transfer money between mobile wallets, share music and other data, and even trade Pokémon with other trainers in Pokémon Go. NFC has almost limitless potential when it comes to secure data transfer.

How does the NFC technology work?

The technology originates with radio frequency IDentification (RFID), which is mostly used in tags for tollbooths, and security access cards. But unlike RFID, which can read the chip at longer distances, NFC range is limited to just 4 centimetres. This short-distance transaction method is considered one of the payment industry’s most secure. And with the ability to share almost any data via NFC, the technology is extremely versatile. Something today’s mobile-minded population will appreciate.

With NFC, there is no requirement to “pair” the devices, as with Bluetooth. Once activated, any other NFC-enabled device that comes within the 4-centimetre range is automatically connected. Once they are connected, they prompt the users to share information. Since the users both have to agree and accept, there can be no “stealing” of data from another NFC device.

NFC is already being used in three major ways

Digital Wallet

By holding your Smartphone or tablet close to the payment pad of the contactless reader, it will prompt the wallet and request you to confirm the payment. For Apple Pay it uses the Touch ID function of the home button, and the technology works just as easily with Android Pay and Samsung Pay

Sharing between Android devices

When two devices are within the 4-centimetre range, it will prompt the users to “beam” the desired content between the devices. Android Beam, though available for some time already, is still a little known feature of the operating system.

NFC chips

These small chips, known as “taps”, can be used with apps to perform a certain task when scanned. Pre-programmed according to the app used, the chip can enable or disable phone functions with just a quick scan of the tap.

What are the major NFC-enabled devices?

There are literally hundreds of devices that can use NFC technology. And the number is growing by the day. To keep people up to date on which devices are NFC-enabled, NFC World keeps a list of enabled phone models. Many Android devices are already enabled, as are majority of new Windows devices. Mobile phones from Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft and hundreds of others have had this technology enabled for quite some time. Apple, however, is only just starting to catch up. The latest Apple devices with NFC technology are:

  • Apple Watch
  • IPhone 7
  • IPhone 7 Plus
  • IPhone 6S
  • IPhone 6S Plus
  • IPhone SE

Since this is a recent addition to Apple’s range of products, it is still limited to purchases only. And it does not look like this will change anytime soon. Apple has stated that it is “not keen on expanding NFC functionality to areas we do not think need it.” So, much as the Pokémon Go app lets you play the game on an iPhone, sadly, the trading possibility will not be available. And while Apple Pay has been integrated into many stores, Apple’s support page states that the iPad devices will not work at store Pay Pads. For those with an iPad, the only use will be through certain apps and through the Safari web browser for online purchases.

Android Beam uses NFC technology

Android Beam, which is built into all Android devices running Android 4.0 and above, lets you exchange just about anything, from web pages to YouTube videos. You can also use it to use your Google Wallet, which came out in 2011, and Android Pay on all devices running 4.4 and above. To set up Android Beam, simply access the settings and select “more” and toggle the NFC button to on. Switch on the Android Beam option as well, and you are good to go. Just place your phone next to any NFC-enabled device for a few seconds, until the prompt appears asking if you want to “beam” to another device.

There are limitless applications for NFC technology

The various payment services – Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay – are only the start. There are many other applications for NFC technology. The Sony QX lens can take photos and videos and transmit them direct to your photo file through NFC. Mobile phones can also be used as rail and underground rail tickets, making boarding faster and easier. The app keeps a track of how many trips you have made on your digital ticket, and lets you know how many are left.

With NFC technology cropping up in more places than ever, wearable technology was the obvious next step. NFC tech has already been embedded into jewellery items and watches, giving the wearer access to their private data. There are even tattoos available with embedded NFC chips that allow you to unlock your phone by waving it over the tattoo, or to store information for use in the future. Pizza Hut even has its own stick-on “tattoo” that allows you to order your favorite pizza without the need for your phone or wallet. The “tattoo” sticker is pre-programmed with the wearer’s favorite pizza details and their location. By waving their smartphone over the sticker, the user can order a pizza through the app, without opening it.

NFC technology is showing up everywhere. In San Francisco, you can use your NFC enabled device at a parking meter to make the payment. In London and Manchester, statues are embedded with NFC chips, allowing you to scan the statue and download historical information about the figure. It is hoped that most public transport will utilize NFC within the next few years, and Amazon has a “concept” grocery store which revolutionizes the shopping experience as there are no checkout process.

Is NFC the future of personal data storage?

And while NFC technology slowly inserts itself into our everyday lives, the latest step is the xNT Implant Kit. For just ninety-nine dollars you can get a home-kit, which includes the syringe, to insert an NFC implant under the skin.

The NFC chip can store and carry just about any form of data, including identity documents such as passports and driving licenses. Is the future of payments and identity documents going to be a chip embedded into the body to carry all of your important and sensitive data?

 

Image : Shutterstock